Ca(2+) waves and oscillation are key signalling elements during the fertilization process of animals, and are involved, for example, in egg activation. In the unique double fertilization process in flowering plants, both the egg cell and the neighbouring central cell fuse with a sperm cell each. Here we succeeded in imaging cytosolic Ca(2+) in these two cells, and in the two synergid cells that accompany the gametes during semi-in vivo double fertilization. Following pollen tube discharge and plasmogamy, the egg and central cells displayed transient Ca(2+) spikes, but not oscillations. Only the events in the egg cell correlated with the plasmogamy. In contrast, the synergid cells displayed Ca(2+) oscillations on pollen tube arrival. The two synergid cells showed distinct Ca(2+) dynamics depending on their respective roles in tube reception. These Ca(2+) dynamics in the female gametophyte seem to represent highly specific signatures that coordinate successful double fertilization in the flowering plants.
In flowering plants, double fertilization is normally accomplished by the first pollen tube, with the fertilized ovule subsequently inhibiting the attraction of a second pollen tube. However, the mechanism of second-pollen-tube avoidance remains unknown. We discovered that failure to fertilize either the egg cell or the central cell compromised second-pollen-tube avoidance in Arabidopsis thaliana. A similar disturbance was caused by disrupting the fertilization-independent seed (FIS) class polycomb-repressive complex 2 (FIS-PRC2), a central cell- and endosperm-specific chromatin-modifying complex for gene silencing. Therefore, the two female gametes have evolved their own signaling pathways. Intriguingly, second-pollen-tube attraction induced by half-successful fertilization allowed the ovules to complete double fertilization, producing a genetically distinct embryo and endosperm. We thus propose that each female gamete independently determines second-pollen-tube avoidance to maximize reproductive fitness in flowering plants.
Pollen tube guidance is the mechanism whereby the direction of pollen tube growth is controlled by female cells of the pistil. Some key genes and molecules have recently been identified as being involved in pollen tube guidance. In this review article, we discuss the molecular basis of pollen tube guidance, especially in Arabidopsis thaliana, by summarizing recent progress in various plant species. Attractant molecules and receptors for gametophytic pollen tube guidance are the focus of this article.
For more than 140 years, pollen tube guidance in flowering plants has been thought to be mediated by chemoattractants derived from target ovules. However, there has been no convincing evidence of any particular molecule being the true attractant that actually controls the navigation of pollen tubes towards ovules. Emerging data indicate that two synergid cells on the side of the egg cell emit a diffusible, species-specific signal to attract the pollen tube at the last step of pollen tube guidance. Here we report that secreted, cysteine-rich polypeptides (CRPs) in a subgroup of defensin-like proteins are attractants derived from the synergid cells. We isolated synergid cells of Torenia fournieri, a unique plant with a protruding embryo sac, to identify transcripts encoding secreted proteins as candidate molecules for the chemoattractant(s). We found two CRPs, abundantly and predominantly expressed in the synergid cell, which are secreted to the surface of the egg apparatus. Moreover, they showed activity in vitro to attract competent pollen tubes of their own species and were named as LUREs. Injection of morpholino antisense oligomers against the LUREs impaired pollen tube attraction, supporting the finding that LUREs are the attractants derived from the synergid cells of T. fournieri.
Genes directly involved in male/female and host/parasite interactions are believed to be under positive selection. The flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana has more than 300 defensin-like (DEFL) genes, which are likely to be involved in both natural immunity and cell-to-cell communication including pollen-pistil interactions. However, little is known of the relationship between the molecular evolution of DEFL genes and their functions. Here, we identified a recently evolved cluster of DEFL genes in A. thaliana and demonstrated that these DEFL (cysteine-rich peptide [CRP810_1]) peptides, named AtLURE1 peptides, are pollen tube attractants guiding pollen tubes to the ovular micropyle. The AtLURE1 genes formed the sole species-specific cluster among DEFL genes compared to its close relative, A. lyrata. No evidence for positive selection was detected in AtLURE1 genes and their orthologs, implying neutral evolution of AtLURE1 genes. AtLURE1 peptides were specifically expressed in egg-accompanying synergid cells and secreted toward the funicular surface through the micropyle. Genetic analyses showed that gametophytic mutants defective in micropylar guidance (myb98, magatama3, and central cell guidance) do not express AtLURE1 peptides. Downregulation of the expression of these peptides impaired precise pollen tube attraction to the micropylar opening of some populations of ovules. Recombinant AtLURE1 peptides attracted A. thaliana pollen tubes at a higher frequency compared to A. lyrata pollen tubes, suggesting that these peptides are species-preferential attractants in micropylar guidance. In support of this idea, the heterologous expression of a single AtLURE1 peptide in the synergid cell of Torenia fournieri was sufficient to guide A. thaliana pollen tubes to the T. fournieri embryo sac and to permit entry into it. Our results suggest the unique evolution of AtLURE1 genes, which are directly involved in male-female interaction among the DEFL multigene family, and furthermore suggest that these peptides are sufficient to overcome interspecific barriers in gametophytic attraction and penetration.
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